The Old 97’s have just added a January 14 Dallas show at the legendary Sons of Hermann Hall, to their upcoming January mini-tour. So the Dallas show, which will come at the end of several days of “hard rehearsals for the new record” officially kicks off the countdown to the next Old 97’s CD release, now planned for this Summer on New West Records. FWIW, along with the crazies over at Bloodshot Records, New West is THE premier label for all your Roots Rock, Southern Rock, and your alt-country listening needs. You say you like them Drive By Truckers? Them boys in Slobberbone? Billy Joe Shaver? The Flatlanders? Well now you can call ’em all label-mates of the Old 97’s.

The 97’s will be cut the album’s basic tracks in Woodstock, NY, with finishing touches applied in San Diego, and on the technical side, the guys have signed one of the great Rockabilly knob-meisters to helm the boards as producer and engineer for their upcoming release. In fact, Murry calls him the “king of rockabilly recording in the U.S..” He’s Mark Neill, and you can hear his work on wax from Big Sandy, The Paladins, Deke Dickerson, Rip Carson, and as producer on the last couple of Los Straitjackets CD’s. Neill’s reputation is that of a Rockabilly craftsman with an unmatched store of knowledge and and skill in recording techniques down through the decades. So does all this mean what I think it means? Will the next 97’s disc see a return to the amps-at-10 twang of Wreck Your Life and Too Far To Care? Stay tuned!

In other news from the 97’s family, Grey DeLisle’s next Sugar Hill record, Graceful Ghost, is due March 14th, just in time for SXSW. In fact Murry will be playing with her there, on a Sugar Hill bill with Alison Moorer and Garrison Starr. Sort of off the subject, Grey must be one of the hardest working unseen women in show business. Anyway – note to self – there is a definite possibility that a great little bar band from Dallas might also be playing in Austin that very same SXSW week… ahem.

Finally, on December 28, Newsday’s music critic Rafer Guzmán showed curious timing but excellent taste when he named Rhett Miller’s 2002 release The Instigator as one of the Top 10 releases for 2003. Says Mr. Guzmán:

6. Rhett Miller, “The Instigator” (Elektra). For his solo foray, the leader of the Dallas-based Old 97’s removes his alt-country Stetson and dons the cap of a simple tunesmith. The result: 12 small but beautifully cut gems, full of winking lyrics and bright harmonies. Along with an appealingly earnest voice, Miller has an eye for romance, and he finds it in the oddest places: on Chicago’s El train, in the letters of Richard Wagner, with a bespectacled science teacher. These songs don’t want to set the world on fire, just keep it nice and toasty.

It’s hard to argue with the sentiment, but… uhm… what about last year?

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